Friday, March 27, 2015

Little Known Novella

I was browsing the library shelves for Raymond Chandler - before I knew that he was in the murder-mystery section - and came across this by a fave author of mine - Willa Cather - and it caught my fancy.

I have never read a Willa Cather novel I did not like, and even though this is in some ways just a long short story, I really like this one too.

One reviewer made a comment about the change in focus in her novels being related to "getting away from the prairie," but I don't think that line of thought is quite accurate.  Women and men might face different issues in the prairie than they face in the cities, but the key is how they handle the issues they face.

This story rather dramatically shows how two women and one man face the trials of life in very different ways - but in the end, they all seem to have found peace.

A good, fast read for those who also love Ms. Cather - or even those who have never met her!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Number 18 on the way to 52 books a year!

I was reading an article in the AARP magazine - which, by the way, has a great interview with Bob Dylan in it - and there was a feature about "the book that influenced you."  

The author Michael Connelly - whom I have not read but have heard of - said that it was the first paragraph in Chapter 13 of Raymond Chandler's The Little Sister, a murder mystery.

I am familiar with Raymond Chandler because of the films that were made of some of his books.  And Humphrey Bogart always played Phillip Marlowe, the ace detective, so my curiosity was piqued!

I thought the screen writers had given Bogey all his great lines, but it turns out that Chandler's Phillip Marlowe series is full of great lines!!

I am not a real murder mystery fan, but I did enjoy this.  It was a lot like watching a Bogey movie.  The dialogue was great, and the story moved right along.  The prose was fluid and not overblown.  I felt like I was in the Los Angeles of almost 70 years ago.

I'd give it a thumbs up!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Nothing a little Maisie Dobbs can't fix!

It's been a few years since I was introduced to the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear, but it's mostly been a good relationship.  After the first 4 or 5, I thought she was getting stagnant and the stories were not very compelling anymore.  And actually she wrote a non-Maisie novel that I enjoyed, but not everyone liked it.

But her newest is a nice change of pace - and she seems to have her story-telling back in stride!

A Dangerous Place occurs in Gibraltor in 1934 - the Spanish Civil War.  There's a backstory that comes about with some letters and newspaper accounts, and then the story really gets going.

It was vintage Jacqueline Winspear - and I am delighted to see it.

Hopefully the trend will continue!!

Now on to number 18 in my "Read 52 Books This Year" campaign!!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

At least, a keeper!

I was starting to think that I'd never find a book by a fave author that was as good as the ones that were my faves!!  S.E. Hinton and Natalie Babbitt were disappointing.

But Rodman Philbrick, author of Freak the Mighty - another middle school fave of mine - and my students - did not disappoint with The Fire Pony.

It is a YA novel - but even elementary school kids would enjoy it.  The mark of a good book for me is the ability of the story to grab different audiences at different levels.

It's a story about horses - lots of authentic detail.  But it's also about abandonment, the foster care system, addictions, and love and loss - all elements that can combine for some rich, detailed story-telling.

And there's a horse race in it - no spoilers here, but you'll be cheering!!

Number 16 on my list of 52 books to read in 2015.

I'm thinking I need to up the ante here - I will be at 52 by mid-year I think!!

There's a new Toni Morrison out April 21st.  And a new Maisie Dobbs that's available now.  I was ready to give up on her - the first 3 or 4 in the series were great, and then the quality seemed to go downhill. But the reviewer claims she's getting back up where she belongs - so I will give her a chance.

And let you know!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Thumbs down!!

I thought that since The Outsiders was so good, this one would at least be okay!!


Not sure what S.E. Hinton was doing when she wrote this, but thinking clearly was not on the agenda!!

Such a garbled plotline - if you can call it that.  And "cured" vampires? One dimensional characters??  Situations that strain credulity?

I'm not even going to put it in my little library - it's going in the trash!!

(Not even sure why I'm bothering to review it.  But I am going to count it on my 52 books a year list!!)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

"In the leafy treetops!"

When I was Primary age, the three older classes for girls were Larks, Bluebirds, and Seagulls.  There were lots of requirements for moving on from one level to another, but one of them - to graduate from Primary - was to complete this sampler.

My brother Lyn and the boy next door - Freddy Vergine - built tree houses on our property and other property near us.  Often they discarded one and went on to another one.  One summer, Alice and I jumped - or should I say climbed - at the opportunity to take over a tree house up in a eucalyptus tree across the street from us. 

We went up daily and shouted down at the "little kids" or ate warm oranges off the trees in the orchard below or read books or - in my case - worked on my sampler.

It looks pretty nice in this photo, but up close you can see the uneven stitches.  But I was only 10, so cut me some slack!!

And it's a lovely memory!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Racing right along on the trail to 52 books a year!!

I read the Flavia de Luce novels a few years ago, and happened on one that didn't really catch my fancy, so I left them alone.  I think I've already explained this.  So now I'm back into them - but I think this is the last one - at least until another one comes out in print - and actually I should have read this one before I read The Chimney Sweeps Come to Dust.  But reading them out of order isn't fatal - I enjoyed them both.

There's a lot of espionage in this one and lots of British/WW II history too.  If you get into this series, you will enjoy this one.

Since I'd read Tuck Everlasting multiple times over the years - it's core-lit - I thought I'd love another book by the same author.  

Wrong.  This one is kind of mystical like Tuck, but not nearly so compelling and poetic.

But it's pretty short.  And might be a good read aloud choice for elementary kids.

So it's almost mid-March - and I'm on book number 15!!

Friday, March 06, 2015

Great film!!

I call this a "must see!"  Not your average feel-good sports movie - there is some true growth and understanding going on - and it's based on a true story!!

One of the runners in the story is a reporter for the LA Times and he wrote a follow-up article last week.

I love "connections!"

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Just finished number 12 of my "Read 52 Books a Year" quest!  I read the first few Flavia de Luce novels and quite loved them.  Then it felt like they'd gotten a little tedious and I left them alone for awhile.

I was at loose ends looking for something to read, though, and happened upon them - I think I'm getting them out of order but went ahead.

So now I'll have to fill in a few blanks.

A good way to fill an afternoon!

This one was a bit slow at first, but the humor and the mystery keeps you going.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Book number 11 checked off!

I'm not sure how I originally was introduced to Jhumpa Lahiri, but I have enjoyed every book of hers that I have read - which would be 2 novels and 2 collections of short stories.

She is Indian but was raised in London.  She must have traveled to India often, however, because she is able to evoke the many complex aspects of the country.  This is part of the appeal of her novels and stories - it is very easy to be transported to another world.

This story is complex and covers a large span of years.  Perhaps one of the draws for me was the fact that the main character was my age - and he had struggled with many of the same social and political issues that bombarded us in our young adult years.

The story is told in flashback and intersecting story lines - always an ingredient that can keep me glued to the story line.

If you aren't sure if you would like her or not, try one of the short story collections first.

I'm thinking you will like her style of writing.